Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Saga Continues

I completed editing my first draft Sunday- May 23, 2010 to be exact. I now have a 305 page manuscript adorned with green sticky notes. Entire portions of my novel contain handwritten notes and lines through words, notations to add words, and small reminders to watch for repetitive phrasing. I gained insight into my novel’s strengths and weaknesses in both character and plot. It is up to me to take this manuscript and make it the best work product possible.

Yesterday, after pondering what my next phase of creativity would look like, I decided to sketch an outline. My story spans five days and contains viewpoints of one main character and two others. When editing, I noted some of my timelines were a little skewed, to say the least. My goal is to ensure that my timeline is spot on. I need to eliminate any reader confusion.

Last night, I started the chapter/scene outline. Today, I completed my outline/synopsis up to the newly revised chapter 8 (if I had not combined chapters, I would have been to chapter 13). I have been at it about an hour and a half. I can stop for the evening and do something else.

I am proud of myself.

My goal is to complete my outline by sometime next week, though I suspect it could be sooner. After this comes the restructuring of my novel, along with the revisions and additions, as well as deletions.

Many people have been giving me support during this process, for which I am grateful and blessed. A writer must write alone, but it is important not to isolate and shut out other people.

Happy writing all!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What Editing Feels Like

As of today, I have edited forty-five pages.

Once I completed my draft, I did what most writers do-- I put my precious novel (bestseller, of course) away for a few days and tried not to think about it. The problem was I could not stop thinking about it! I knew I had left some plot points straggling and would have to pick them up and intertwine them throughout the story. Where did I drop these important tidbits? How would I pick them up again without changing major chunks of the story?

What if I had to start the entire story over because of one straggler?

This kind of thinking exhausted me. I knew I needed to take a step back.

Monday, the day after I wrote The End on page 305, I had this insurmountable urge to look at chapter one, or maybe just the first page or first few paragraphs. But, I stopped myself, because it felt like I was too close to the story. It’s dangerous for a writer to edit when they feel like they are a part of the story rather than its creator.

Tuesday, I decided I would start editing on Wednesday. I needed more distance.

Wednesday, I decided it was still too soon to start. My final decision was that I would start editing when it felt right.

Thursday felt like the right time to start looking at my novel through critical editor eagle eyes. So many questions came to mind. Will my hook catch the reader’s eyes, keep them reading? Are spelling and grammar correct? Do I use adjectives and adverbs sparingly? Are my sentences, paragraphs and scenes clear, and do they convey what the reader needs to know? Do I have unnecessary repetition in my story? Do I write distinctive voices for my characters, which means lean dialogue tags? Am I writing tight and lean sentences? Am I too wordy in some places?

Sheesh, the list continues into oblivion!

When editing, I need to be willing to kill off some of my darlings that do not belong in the story (actually, we don’t really kill them off, we just past them to a documents titled Little Darlings for Future Use). If a scene, character, or minor plot point does not work within the larger picture, I must let them go.

After editing-- which I am doing by hand, and then rewriting in my word processing program-- my goal is to start looking for an agent. I don’t want to circulate substandard work. I want my manuscript to be as close to perfect as I can get it. I want to leave as little work for an agent, editor or publisher as I can. It’s the writers’ job to know how to write.

Time to get back to editing. Happy writing all!

Monday, May 3, 2010

What The End Feels Like

The end of writing a novel, that is. I cannot begin to describe the exhilaration I felt when I typed those precious two words. Thirty-one chapters and approximately 60,000 words.

The End.

I will soon start editing. Some writers let their novel sit for a week or two, maybe three, and proceed to other writing projects—a few short stories, an article or two. Some might even start working on another novel. Other writers let the manuscript simmer for no more than a day before they start the editing process.

I didn’t touch my novel today. I didn’t start any other stories. Instead, I watched an episode of Ghost Whisperer, followed by Medium. Some great stories in those television shows. Perhaps tomorrow I will start editing, or I might decide to take the week off. I’m not sure when I will start editing, but it will be soon.

I know editing requires that I take a step back and read my novel as a reader, not as a writer. I must be willing to sacrifice sentences, scenes, perhaps pages, that do not advance my story, even if the aforementioned will knock the socks off of any agent, publisher or reader. I must make sure my writing is tight, utilize correct grammar and spelling, weed out useless adverbs, watch for repetition of words—the list goes on. My most important task, I believe, is to make sure my story engages the reader through the gift of showing. Show don’t tell.

I care about my characters and their lives. They are as real to me as my family, friends, next door neighbors (okay, I’m exaggerating a bit here, but just let me make my point). I must give breath, body and personality to my characters in order for my readers to see them as whole human beings. The last thing I want to do is create cardboard characters.

Now that I’ve written this, I have decided I will start the editing process in a few days. Most likely on Wednesday, for no other reason than it is the day after tomorrow.

The end (for now).

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